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Crises Demand Never-Fail Support for Educators

By Stephanie Hirsh

Stephanie Hirsh image
Stephanie Hirsh

Yesterday I was horrified to wake to the news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. We mourn for the loss of so many lives. When I hear about this on top of the ongoing recovery efforts from the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas, I think always about how we can best support our educators, who are so committed to serving as the first line of support for a community's children.

During the most tragic events, I am heartened that educators bring their passion and compassion no matter what. When the unexpected happens, teachers are ready to offer their students safe spaces to ask questions and try to understand the world. Principals consider a school's most urgent priorities and rally their staff members to find the best solutions. Staff members do whatever it takes to give students what they need.

So I have to ask, how can we not do the same for educators when we have opportunities to do so? What would it mean to offer never-fail support for educators? I believe it would look a lot like this:

Articulate a vision where everyone in schools is a learner. When we put learning first, for students, for teachers, for leaders and administrators, we expect that everyone has the opportunity to grow and improve every day. System leaders have the power to create cultures of continuous improvement if they believe it should be a priority. Sometimes the events of the day require leaders to set aside their regularly scheduled learning plans to support communities in crisis and that is something  a learning organization is prepared to do.

Provide time and resources to back up the vision. In learning organizations, educators have opportunities to work with their colleagues to solve specific student learning challenges. They have time during the work day because of the schedules that leaders in schools and systems create in collaboration with leadership teams and teacher organizations. Educators also have access to resources -- including technology and expertise -- to consult when they need external assistance.

Expect that every educator is a consummate professional. Most educators are working at their fullest capacity to create safe and engaging learning environments for students. System and school leaders who respect the professionals in their buildings and trust them to do what's right for students set high expectations and offer support and resources to ensure educators can meet them.

Recognize the depth of expertise in any classroom, team, or building. Teachers and school leaders know their students, their learning needs, and in many cases, their family situations. They know a lot about what is happening in their neighborhoods and communities. And just as important, they generally know where their own learning and support needs lie. When school and system leaders set a vision for learning and hold high expectations for all educators and students, their commitment to listening to educators' requests for support is a critical element of sustaining the learning culture in schools.

I remain hopeful for how our communities can address challenges big and small when I look at what happens daily in schools. I am particularly grateful for all that you do to ensure educators get the respect, resources, and commitment they require. Know that I will do what I can to support you as well -- I welcome your questions and comments.  

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward
@HirshLF

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